This topic provides an overview of absenteeism in the workplace, the costs this presents to organisations and various ways that this can be lawfully managed to reduce productivity losses.

What is absenteeism?

Absenteeism is a problem for organisations because they have to arrange for the work of the absent worker to be done by others.  This might involve rearranging the workloads of employees, which may cause some employees to experience excessive workloads.  Alternatively the work is not undertaken with potential adverse effects on the business.

Employees who take illegitimate sick days can also lower morale amongst other employees.


What is presenteeism?

Research indicates that 'presenteeism' (a practice whereby employees show up to work whilst sick) is nearly four times more common than absenteeism, and accounts for far greater productivity losses to employers than absenteeism alone. Common presenteeism conditions include:

  • Depression
  • The common cold / flu
  • Back pain
  • Severe headaches / migraine
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Glandular fever / chronic fatigue etc.

Some of these will which are often difficult to detect, but have significant effects on a workers ability to perform at work

Besides losses in productivity, presenteeism has additional hidden costs to employers which include:

  • Slower recovery time of employees due to potential exacerbation of illness, injury or incapacity;
  • Risks to other employees in the workplace who may also become sick due to contagious conditions, resulting in more absenteeism and presenteeism; and
  • risk of contamination of clients/customers and products (particularly food products) harming reputation

For more information, please see our:

Frequently Asked Questions

For more absenteeism, please see our FAQs and other resources below.


Addressing employee lateness

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Entitlement to paid carers leave

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Entitlement to paid sick (personal) leave

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Information sheets

Abandonment of employment

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Absenteeism as a form of industrial action

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An employees right to be absent from work

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Lawful discipline and termination for absenteeism

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